EZEKIEL, BOOK OF
This remarkable prophecy bears the name of the prophet who was given this series of prophetic warnings and visions. Ezekiel the son of Buzi, a priest, may have completed writing the book in Babylonia in the year 591 B.C.E. It covers a period of approximately twenty-two years, from 613 to about 591 B.C.E.—Ezek. 1:1-3; 29:17.
The book of Ezekiel is distinguished by visions, similes, allegories or parables and especially by performance of symbolic actions, as when Ezekiel was told by God to engrave a sketch of Jerusalem on a brick and then to stage a mock siege against it as a sign to Israel. (4:1-17) Other symbolic actions were the joining of two sticks, representing the two houses of Israel (37:15-23), and Ezekiel’s digging a hole in a wall and going out with his luggage, representing the captivity of Jerusalem. (12:3-13) The illustration of Oholah and Oholibah is one of the vivid allegories of the book. (Chap. 23) Another notable feature of the book of Ezekiel is the meticulous care Ezekiel took to date his prophecies, giving not only the year of King Jehoiachin’s exile but also the month and day of the month.—1:1, 2; 29:1; 30:20; 31:1; 32:1; 40:1.
Proof of the book’s authenticity is to be found in the fulfillment of its prophecies. (For examples see TYRE; EDOM, EDOMITES; AMMONITES.) Further attesting to the authenticity of this book is archaeology. The noted American archaeologist W. F. Albright wrote in his book The Bible After Twenty Years of Archaeology: “Archaeological data have . . . demonstrated the substantial originality of the Books of Jeremiah and Ezekiel, of Ezra and Nehemiah beyond doubt, they have confirmed the traditional picture of events as well as their order.”
The authenticity of the book of Ezekiel is supported by its harmony with the other books of the Bible, although it is not quoted or cited directly by any of the writers of the Christian Greek Scriptures. Allusions to some of its statements and similar expressions are, nevertheless, found profusely. Ezekiel and Jesus speak of the drying up of a moist tree. (Ezek. 17:24; Luke 23:31) Ezekiel and Jesus both spoke of a judgment of people as sheep and goats. (Ezek. 34:17; Matt. 25:32, 33) The book of Revelation uses many illustrations similar to those in Ezekiel.—Compare Ezekiel 1:28—Revelation 4:3; Ezekiel 10:3, 4—Revelation 15:8; Ezekiel 12:25—Revelation 10:6; Ezekiel 37:10—Revelation 11:11.
It is to be noted that among the Chester Beatty Greek Biblical papyri is one codex containing, among other portions of the Bible, Ezekiel, Daniel and Esther. These are all found in one codex, probably consisting originally of one hundred and eighteen leaves. It is a copy written by two scribes, likely in the first half of the third century, indicating the substantial soundness of the book of Ezekiel as it has come down to us.
Since Jeremiah and Ezekiel were contemporaries, their prophecies have many things in common. (Compare Ezekiel 18:2—Jeremiah 31:29; Ezekiel 24:3—Jeremiah 1:13; Ezekiel 34:2—Jeremiah 23:1.) Daniel and Ezekiel, also contemporaries, have similarities of expression in their writings. Ezekiel, while bound by cords, prophesied about the kingdom of Judah and designated a year in fulfillment for each day of the prophecy. (Ezek. 4:4-8) Likewise, Daniel spoke of a tree stump banded and a day-for-a-year time feature, a prophecy concerning the kingdom. (Dan. 4:23) Another time prophecy of Daniel was the seventy weeks in connection with the coming of the Messiah the Leader, also using a day to symbolize a year in the fulfillment.—Dan. 9:24-27.
ARRANGEMENT OF MATERIAL
For the most part, Ezekiel’s prophecies and visions are arranged chronologically as well as topically. The four verses of chapter 29:17-20 are placed out of their chronological order (compare Ezekiel 29:1; 30:20), but topically they belong here with the prophecy against Egypt. Up until the tenth month of the ninth year of the first captivity, the central point around which Ezekiel’s prophecies revolved was the complete fall and desolation of Jerusalem, with only brief references to the restoration. Such is the tenor of the first twenty-four chapters. During the siege of Jerusalem, the prophet turned his attention mainly to pronouncing woes upon the pagan nations foreseen by Jehovah God as rejoicing over the downfall of Jerusalem. After arrival of the news that Jerusalem had fallen, the prophet sounds the glorious note of restoration, which is the predominant theme throughout the remainder of the book.—Ezek. 33:20, 21.
The book of Ezekiel reveals that Babylon’s false religion had been introduced into the precincts of Jehovah’s temple, particularly in the form of worshiping the Babylonian god Tammuz. (Ezek. 8:13, 14) Besides such detestable false worship at Jehovah’s temple itself, the apostate Jews filled the land of Judah with violence. It comes as no surprise, therefore, that in his vision Ezekiel hears the call for Jehovah’s executioners to come with their weapons for smashing and to stand beside the altar in the inner courtyard of the temple. Jehovah then gives them orders to go through the midst of unfaithful Jerusalem and kill off everybody not marked as a worshiper of Jehovah: “Old man, young man and virgin and little child and women you should kill off—to a ruination. But to any man upon whom there is the mark do not go near, and from my sanctuary you should start.” (9:6) Ezekiel reports that Jehovah’s executioners started by killing first the sun-worshiping apostates at the temple porch. The temple was also bloodied by their killing off the seventy elderly men inside who were worshiping the idolatrous carvings on the wall and all those women who were sitting at the gate, weeping for the Babylonish god Tammuz. (8:7–9:8) The vision of Ezekiel was but a preview of what was about to befall Jerusalem when Jehovah made her drink the cup of wine of His rage out of His hand by means of His executional servant, King Nebuchadnezzar (Nebuchadrezzar), and his armies.—Jer. 25:9, 15-18.
Ezekiel’s prophecies of restoration must have been of comfort to the exiled Jews. In 593 B.C.E., in the twenty-fifth year of his exile, Ezekiel had his remarkable vision of a new temple of Jehovah, the pattern of which came from Jehovah God himself, and of an adjacent city called Jehovah-shammah, meaning “Jehovah Himself Is There.” (40:1–48:35) In the midst of a land of pagan idolatry it strengthened hope in the repentant Jewish exiles of again worshiping the true God, Jehovah, at his temple.
Ezekiel’s prophecy emphasizes the theme of the Bible, the sanctification of Jehovah’s name by the Kingdom. It points out that while God would permit a long period of vacancy on the throne of David, God had not abandoned his covenant with David for a kingdom. The Kingdom would be given to the one who had the legal right. Ezekiel thereby pointed the Jews, as did Daniel, to the hope of the Messiah. (Ezek. 21:27; 37:22, 24, 25) Jehovah caused Ezekiel to say more than sixty times that people “will have to know that I am Jehovah.” Ezekiel magnifies the memorial name of God by using the expression ʼAdho·nayʹ Yeho·wihʹ, “Lord Jehovah,” 215 times.
OUTLINE OF CONTENTS
I. Jehovah commissions Ezekiel as watchman (1:1–3:27)
II. Warning prophecies against unfaithful Judah and Jerusalem (4:1–24:27)
A. Enacting the siege of Jerusalem (4:1–7:27)
1. Ezekiel lies before a brick 390 days on his left side, 40 days on his right, while subsisting on meager diet (4:1-17)
2. Ezekiel portrays result of siege by shaving off hair and beard, burning a third in the fire, striking a third with the sword and scattering a third to wind (5:1-17)
3. Prophecy against the mountains of Israel, that its high places will be brought to ruin and its idolatry will cease (6:1-14)
4. “A unique calamity” coming upon Jerusalem, so that silver and gold will be unable to deliver anyone (7:1-27)
B. Ezekiel’s vision of apostate Judah (8:1–11:25)
1. In 612 B.C.E. Ezekiel transported by means of a vision to Jerusalem where he is given a view of detestable things at Jehovah’s temple (8:1-18)
2. Man in linen with recorder’s inkhorn to mark foreheads of men sighing over detestable things being done in city; marked persons spared, unmarked ones slaughtered by divine command (9:1-11)
3. Ezekiel again sees glory of Jehovah, rising above cherubs, and fiery coals scattered over city of Jerusalem (10:1-22)
4. Princes to bring Israel to ruin by misleading people; illustration of Jerusalem as a cooking pot. Pelatiah dies; restoration foretold; Ezekiel is returned in vision to Chaldea (11:1-25)
C. More prophecies in Babylon concerning Jerusalem (12:1–19:14)
1. Exile of King Zedekiah and of Judah foretold by symbolic actions, no postponement of judgment (12:1-28)
2. Stupid prophets who foretold peace exposed (13:1-23)
3. Jerusalem so wicked that not even presence of Noah, Daniel and Job could save it; doom certain (14:1-23)
4. Inhabitants of Jerusalem like a worthless vine, not good enough to be used as timber or even a peg—only as fuel for a fire (15:1-8)
5. Allegory of unfaithful wife, how Jerusalem repays Jehovah’s love by giving her favors to pagan gods, prostituting herself, being worse than Sodom and Samaria; Jerusalem to be destroyed by her illicit lovers (16:1-63)
6. The eagle-vine riddle, foretelling Jerusalem’s turning to Egypt for help, with disastrous consequences; tender twig to become majestic cedar (17:1-24)
7. Exiles in Babylon reproved for saying, “Fathers are the ones that eat unripe grapes, but it is the teeth of the sons that get set on edge”; God sets matters straight by saying: “The soul that is sinning—it itself will die” (18:1-32)
8. Judah’s chieftains likened to young lions; snared by Egypt and Babylon (19:1-14)
D. Denunciations against Israel (20:1–23:49)
1. Review of long history of Israel’s detestable activities; continual rebellion despite Jehovah’s mercies; but restoration due (20:1-49)
2. God’s sword unsheathed to bring ruin upon Jerusalem; David’s throne to “become no one’s until he comes who has the legal right” (21:1-32)
3. Further recounting of Jerusalem’s sins; house of Israel has become as scummy dross to be liquefied “with fire” of Jehovah’s fury (22:1-31)
4. Parable of two sisters, Oholah and Oholibah, who prostitute themselves; one is Samaria, other is Jerusalem. Jerusalem to be destroyed by her illegitimate lovers (23:1-49)
E. The final siege of Jerusalem commences (24:1-27)
1. In 609 B.C.E. Jehovah announces to Ezekiel that king of Babylon has besieged Jerusalem (24:1, 2)
2. Jerusalem likened to widemouthed cooking pot; meat represents inhabitants; city full of bloodshed and immorality (24:3-14)
3. Ezekiel’s wife dies on day siege of Jerusalem begins; Ezekiel not to mourn, as a sign that they must not mourn at Jerusalem’s destruction, since it is a judgment from Jehovah (24:15-27)
III. Prophecies against surrounding nations that, Jehovah foresees, will rejoice over Jerusalem’s downfall (25:1–32:32)
A. Prophecies against Ammon, Moab, Edom and Philistia; to suffer same fate as Jerusalem (25:1-17)
B. Prophecies against Tyre (26:1–28:26)
1. Tyre to be besieged by King Nebuchadrezzar of Babylon (26:1-21)
2. Dirge over Tyre, pictured as a pretty ship, bearing the wares and treasures of nations; to be sunk in the depths of the waters (27:1-36)
3. Overthrow of Tyre’s proud king, and of Sidon; Israel to be restored (28:1-26)
C. Warnings against Egypt (29:1–32:32)
1. Nebuchadrezzar to invade and plunder Egypt, as payment from Jehovah for destroying mainland city of Tyre; Egypt to become “lower than the other kingdoms,” no more lifting itself up over other nations (29:1-21)
2. Egypt’s supporters also due for desolation; Egyptians to be scattered among nations (30:1-26)
3. Pharaoh warned by Assyria’s treelike fall (31:1-18)
4. Dirge over Pharaoh’s being silenced; Egypt desolated by Babylon; lament over Egypt’s burial with uncircumcised (32:1-32)
IV. Prophecies of restoration and deliverance of God’s people (33:1–48:35)
A. Watchman to the exiles; restoration foretold (33:1–37:28)
1. God reviews Ezekiel’s duties as watchman to warn the wicked; escapee from Jerusalem arrives to tell captives that “the city has been struck down” (33:1-33)
2. Bad shepherds rebuked; Jehovah to gather scattered sheep and raise over them one shepherd, ‘even his servant David’ (34:1-31)
3. Edom to become a sheer desolate waste (35:1-15)
4. Restoration for Israel; its land to be teeming with inhabitants and to become “like the garden of Eden” (36:1-38)
5. Israel represented in vision of valley of dry bones; miraculously they come to life, becoming “a very, very great military force.” God to unify his people under one shepherd in a covenant of peace (37:1-28)
B. The attack by God of Magog on restored Israel
1. Prosperity of God’s people induces Gog of Magog to attack, anticipating a big spoil; result is war as God fights for his people (38:1-23)
2. Hordes of Gog of Magog destroyed; bones buried to cleanse land (39:1-20)
3. Israel to bear humiliation, then be restored; God’s spirit to be poured out on them (39:21-29)
C. Ezekiel’s visionary temple and city (40:1–48:35)
1. Exiles encouraged by Ezekiel’s vision of temple on very high mountain; an angel shows Ezekiel details of temple, measuring the walls, gates, guard chambers, dining rooms and temple itself (40:1–46:24)
2. Miraculous stream of water flows from Jehovah’s house into Dead Sea, where fish come to life and a fishing industry springs up on shores of Salt Sea; trees provide food and healing for people (47:1-12)
3. Land assignments and the city called “Jehovah Himself Is There” (47:13–48:35)